Toby: the pig that travelled to Antarctica twice
By Federico Gargiulo
En route to a search and rescue mission in Antarctica, the Argentine ship Uruguay brought aboard a pig who would spend most of his life in a land where the ice was commonplace. His name was Toby.
The rescue was a success and, after the Uruguay returned to Buenos Aires, another expedition to Antarctica was about to commence. The ship was the Français. The commander Jean Baptiste Charcot, a French explorer, was given Toby as a farewell gift from the commander of the Uruguay with the following words, “He has been our mascot. I hope he will be yours!”
On board the Français, Charcot aimed to explore the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula, wintering over to conduct scientific observations. They discovered Port Lockroy, Port Charcot, and produced 18 scientific volumes.
In Charcot’s expedition narratives, he would mention setting Toby and the dogs free on the ice and watching them chase seals and penguins. After a year in Antarctica, Toby fell ill. Despite being spoilt and fed condensed milk by the men, Toby was unable to recover. On 11 December 1904, Toby passed away. The French explorers buried him on Sögen Island, next to Sögen, one of the dogs that had died earlier. The exact location of his grave remains a mystery.
It was common practice for explorers and whalers to bring pigs and other animals for fresh food. However, Toby was the only pig to come to Antarctica twice, and to cross the Drake Passage three times. He witnessed great achievements in the history of Antarctica exploration and, as the mascot of two expeditions, he kept the men in high spirits.